This year, USCIS received over 233,000 H-1B petitions for this fiscal year 2016, which exceeds last year’s count (172,500) by over 60,000 petitions. As you likely know, there is a general statutory cap of 65,000 for H-1B petitions in a given fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 available under the advanced degree exception known as the masters cap. Through its computer-generated lottery system, USCIS first selects petitions for the masters cap. Any unselected petitions in this category then become part of the 65,000 general cap selection. On April 7, 2015, USCIS announced that it received enough H-1B petitions in both categories.
There may be other options for you, however, if your H-1B petition was not selected in the lottery. Indeed, there are many other different types of nonimmigrant visas to evaluate. For example, consider if a STEM OPT extension could apply to you. Qualifying F-1 students in post-completion OPT are eligible for a 17-month STEM extension (29 months total) of OPT work authorization if certain factors apply, including your degree program for your period of OPT is in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics) on the government’s list (http://www.ice.gov/sevis) and your prospective employer is enrolled in the E-Verify program. There are rules pending to extend the STEM OPT period for up to two years.
Consider other nonimmigrant visa options as well, such as TN status under NAFTA for Canadian and Mexican citizens engaged in professional activities in the U.S. The regulations articulate categories of professions that qualify in the TN category, such as Registered Nurse, Computer Systems Analyst & Engineer. Canadian citizens may apply for TN status at the border with CBP.
Other temporary visa categories to consider are O-1 for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. J-1 exchange visitor visas for various individuals, including college students and research scholars. Another option is the L-1 visas category for managers, executives, or individuals with specialized knowledge employed by a foreign business entity for at least one of the past three years who seek to work for an affiliated U.S. entity in same or similar capacity.
Last, but not least, do not forget to evaluate whether you have a long-term option of permanent residency in the U.S. through a current or a prospective employer. The path to residency through an employer is generally a three-step process that typically involves the employer first filing a PERM labor certification, then an I-140 visa petition if the PERM is granted, followed by an application for residency by the applicant if a visa number is available. If granted, the result is lawful permanent residency (green card) in the United States.
Wilson Law Group will be happy to help evaluate any potential employment-based opportunities.
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